HP Admits Discussions Regarding Licensing WebOS to Other Manufacturers

HP Gets Serious About Building WebOS-Based Eco-System with Other Companies

by Anton Shilov
06/30/2011 | 02:55 PM

It looks like Hewlett-Packard is very serious about building up eco-system of devices powered by webOS operating system with other makers of hardware. Just several weeks after confirming the possibility of licensing the webOS, the company now admits negotiations with several companies about this.


“We are talking to a number of companies. I can share with you that a number of companies have expressed interest. We are continuing our conversations,” said Leo Apotheker, chief executive officer of HP, in an interview with Bloomberg news-agency.

HP clearly needs third-party hardware running webOS operating system in order to popularize its platform. HP got webOS from Palm, which had consistently failed to gain market share. There are no objective reasons to believe that the HP-made webOS 2.0-based devices will be significantly more popular on the market compared to iOS 5-based Apple iPhone or Android 3.3-powered Samsung Galaxy-series. Third-party devices, however, can be more competitive than HP’s own either in terms of features or in terms of price. Another way to boost popularity of webOS platform is to install in onto other devices made by HP, including PCs, a strategy that is in place already.

But on the other hand, many companies on the market of smartphones nowadays are eager to try new operating system. Hardly a lot of market players would like Google Android to become the next Microsoft Windows for mobile devices. Microsoft Windows Phone yet has to prove that it is competitive against Android or iOS. Therefore, webOS should be an interesting piece of software for many potential licensees.

Samsung Electronics held talks to use WebOS in its smartphones, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions. Neither HP nor Samsung commented on this.

“The reality is that Google and Apple are in the driving seat here and consumers are voting with their dollars. The problem for HP here is how do they license it without competing with their own products,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst for Sterne Agee & Leach.

At present HP does not want to talk about timeframes when third-party webOS-powered devices hit the market. It is clear, though, that HP does not want to give any estimations as well.

 “There is no time pressure to do [licensing of webOS],” said Mr. Apotheker.